Politics : Draws Comparison to the Biblical Joseph Advising Pharaoh : Jackson Suggests an ‘Old Testament’ Role
The Rev. Jesse Jackson suggested Sunday that he should have a powerful if unelected role in the next Administration, comparable with the Old Testament’s Joseph, whose ability to interpret dreams guided a Pharaoh and saved Egypt from destruction.
“Now that I’ve set the agenda, I want to work out the plan,” Jackson said in a speech at a fund raiser here.
Paradoxically, even as Jackson increased his demands for a voice in shaping the nation’s future, he became more open in acknowledging that he is all but beaten by Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis in his quest for the Democratic nomination.
His shifting goals reflect how Jackson’s political campaign, lacking a serious prospect of winning, is reverting to its origins as a social movement--but one that now could carry millions of votes, one that has significantly more clout with national political leaders.
Each Needs Other
Jackson told reporters it is “self-evident that neither (he nor Dukakis) can win without the other. . . . Both of us have earned the right to chart the course of our party together.”
Although he has not won a primary or caucus since his Michigan upset of Dukakis in March, Jackson has inspired and brought into the political process huge numbers of people who previously did not vote. Party leaders hope that Jackson will enthusiastically back the Democratic ticket and help draw those new voters back to the polls in November.
The open question has been what, if anything, the Chicago clergyman would demand as the price of his support.
In retelling the Old Testament story, Jackson recounted how the Pharaoh, plagued by nightmares that seemed to foreshadow Egypt’s destruction, “swallowed all of that pride” and turned in desperation to his old adversary Joseph, who was known for his powers of interpreting dreams.
Ultimately, Jackson noted, Joseph’s insights averted disaster, and the Pharaoh even put him “in charge of implementing the dream.”
Jackson made it clear that he sees himself as a modern-day version of the biblical character who could link dreams with reality. Dreams are a theme he has often sounded in his campaign--echoing the soaring rhetoric of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.--and at the fund raiser he insisted that the presidential campaign “is not just about voting. It’s about reviving dreams.”
Jackson noted, as he has in the past, that Dukakis and Vice President George Bush, the front-runners in the race, are now following his lead on an array of issues.
In the months before February’s Iowa caucuses, “Bush was talking about (holding) onto Reaganomics. Dukakis was talking about miracles from high tech. . . . I was talking about drugs,” he said. “Look at the agenda nine months later.” With the illegal drug issue leading the polls on public concerns, Dukakis and Bush each have tried to establish themselves as the candidate with the best answer to the problem.
Jackson also took credit for pressing the issue of human rights, which President Reagan has listed as his top priority at the Moscow summit.
‘Winning Every Day’
Meanwhile, even though Jackson is slipping farther behind Dukakis in delegate strength, he nonetheless insisted once again that he is “winning every day.” But he has redefined what that means.
“Winning is expanding, it’s building a coalition,” Jackson said. “Our support base is broader and thicker than Dukakis’.
“When Bush is fighting against drugs and Reagan is fighting for human rights, that’s winning every day,” he added.
Jackson urged his supporters to “see life beyond this rung of the ladder.”
As he has traveled through New Jersey, the crowds who receive him have been somewhat smaller than those to which he is accustomed. The organization of his campaign also appears to be eroding, with many events being scheduled with little notice or publicity.
Jackson’s energy, however, remains undiminished, as he continues to set a campaign pace far more energetic then either Bush or Dukakis.
“The only thing worse than being behind in the race,” he told a crowd in Atlantic City on Saturday, “is losing the will to run.”